Nehemiah Chapter 8 – The Reading of the Law


Nehemiah 8

The Reading of the Law

The people come together (I just love that word) in the square and the priest Ezra reads the book of law.  Everyone was attentive.

Ezra stood on a wooden stand that put him above the people.  When he opened the book everyone stood up.

Amen and Amen

Ezra blessed the Lord and the people answered with Amens and raised their hands in praise.  Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

The Levites (there’s a list of them) then helped the people understand the law.  They read from the book of law interpreting it.

 In the annotated Bible, it said that they were translating it from Hebrew to the more familiar Aramaic for the people to understand.  I feel there is a difference between translating and interpreting.  It could be they were doing both but it helped me to know it was a translation too.

For all the people wept

The people wept when they heard the words of the law, but the leaders – Nehemiah, Ezra, and the Levites – told them not to mourn or weep as this was a Holy Day.

It can seem weird to think of someone weeping over the reading of the law (imagine weeping over Leviticus or Numbers)  but it’s been so long since they have heard it.  Maybe some are hearing for the first time and in doing so feel their history in a big way.  Maybe they are sensing their connection to their ancestry and their faith.

Eat the Fat and drink sweet wine, send portions of them to those for whom nothing is preapared.

They send them off then, to eat and drink and share with those who haven’t prepared.

I read in the Interpreter’s Bible that this wasn’t for the poor but more for those who just didn’t have time to prepare because it was such a sudden celebration. They didn’t know it was coming until they began reading it in the book.  I thought this was interesting because the first time I read it, I did immediately think of the poor, but as I reread it, I began to wonder who it was really referring to, someone important maybe?  But it’s not really either or maybe it’s even both.  

The reading led them to realize it was time for the festival of booths to occur.  It wasn’t celebrated while they were in exile so it was a great celebration for seven days and on the eighth day, there was a solemn assembly.

I don’t have a lot of thoughts on this chapter really.  I love how they came together as a community to hear the reading and how they worshiped and praised and wept and celebrated.  That’s life, isn’t? 

And now it’s time to share…

So what did you think of this chapter?  How did it speak to you?

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